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Suit: Mentally ill prisoner denied drugs, food

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - A lawsuit accuses Tangipahoa Parish jail officials of routinely withholding prescription drugs and food from a prisoner for nearly two years while he suffered from severe mental illnesses.

A federal suit filed Monday by the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana claims Dennis Bargher Jr., 33, lost nearly half his body weight and descended into hallucinations and delirium at the jail following his January 2009 arrest on a charge of carnal knowledge of a 15-year-old girl.

The suit accuses Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff Daniel Edwards, a physician, a nurse and an assistant warden at the jail of violating Bargher's constitutional rights. It seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

A spokeswoman for the sheriff's office didn't immediately return a call for comment.

Bargher is now serving an eight-year prison sentence at Elayn Hunt Correctional Center in St. Gabriel.

The suit says Bargher suffers from schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and severe depression and had severe withdrawal symptoms when he didn't get his medication.

"The abuse was deliberate: jail and parish officials not only ignored the clear recommendations of Bargher's psychiatrists, but also disregarded a court order for treatment," the suit says.

Bargher was "psychotic, enfeebled and emaciated" when jail officials transferred him to the St. Gabriel prison, the suit adds.

Bargher's suit also has the backing of the Advocacy Center, a nonprofit that provides legal assistance to disabled and elderly people.

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